When did it become common practice for companies to refuse to provide contact information to clients, prospective clients or just about anyone who asks for it? I guess I didn’t get that memo. What’s the big secret?
In my professional experience, when someone calls (or, these days, emails) a company asking for contact information either for the company in general or for a specific person or department, the common practice is to provide that information. Simple. No-brainer.
I have no idea how many times in many different jobs I called to ask for a mailing address, a physical address, the formal title of a person I had previously talked to, the name of a person in a specific position or the name of the best person to contact regarding a specific issue or piece of information. I can’t recall a single instance when the person I spoke to, generally a polite and efficient receptionist, failed to simply provide the requested information. Basic, every-day business practice.
I have also been that person answering the phone and providing whatever information was requested. In the old days (and probably still at small companies) there was always some kind of paper list near the phone with names, titles and phone extensions. Now, technology makes possible a web-based, searchable database so employees at even the largest corporations can easily locate and contact any person, department or division.
So why is it that I have spent hours and hours trying to locate contact information at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage and Freddie Mac? Why does it seem like they are loathe to provide names, phone numbers or addresses where their clients can contact the people who can answer their questions and provide basic services?
During the past seven months dealing with WFHM, I have been shuffled along among eight different people who in some way or another were supposed to be my permanent contact through the end of my mortgage modification review. (That’s after just having to speak to random customer-service people for nearly three months.) The problem is, many of the people who have passed me along to someone else have failed/refused to provide me with a way to directly get in touch with the next person in line.
In one instance, it took 14 phone calls over 12 days before I got to speak to the person who was supposed to help complete my modification review.
And all this time, the customer-service queue people at Wells Fargo generally claimed not to have access to the contact information for all those people who were supposed to be committed to helping their customers (me!) avoid foreclosure. Seriously?! I’m supposed to believe that a big, modern company like Wells Fargo doesn’t have any way for employees to get in contact with each other or to put clients in touch with the departments and personnel providing the services they need? I did finally get one rep. to confirm for me that, of course, Wells Fargo did have a company directory and that, of course, she did have access to it. She just wasn’t allowed to give me the phone number of the person I was supposed to be dealing with. I would just have to wait until that person got around to contacting me.
What?!! Don’t call us; we’ll call you? While the clock is ticking and I’m sliding down the slope into default?
Now I’m having the same trouble with Freddie Mac, the actual owner of my mortgage loan. I emailed email@example.com to ask for the name and mailing address of the person in charge of servicer compliance for the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP). First, they ignored me. I kept emailing. Then I got a message not to email that address anymore because they needed to “escalate this case to a higher department here at Freddie Mac to research.” Research?! I asked for a name and mailing address. What is there to research?
I emailed the new address I was given, FreddieMacBorrowerHelp@freddiemac.com, and again politely requested the name and mailing address. After sending that two more times, I got the following:
“As the compliance administrator for Making Home Affordable, we do have an email address you can use to register perceived violations to the MHA program; however, we would also like the opportunity to explore your concern before the complaint is registered.
If you would like to register an alleged violation, please report it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note that the purpose of this email address is for consumers to voice their concerns. The email address is not a communication tool, so you will not receive any response back or follow-up to your registered complaint.”
So, in other words, they won’t read what you write and they won’t take any action, but if you want to waste your time sending the email, go right ahead?!
I’m asking for a name and address! If I had wanted to submit my complaint via email, I would have done that to the first address I had. I emailed back and said, first, that there are way too many pages for it to be practical to email. And second, that I preferred to send it via regular mail so I would have delivery confirmation as it is my experience that agencies involved in mortgage lending have an unfortunate tendency to misplace paperwork.
Why the secrecy? I can only think of two types of organizations that need to closely guard the identities and whereabouts of their employees. The first are international spy rings, the likes of which are described in the works of authors like Robert Ludlum and John LeCarré. I believe the idea there is that no-one knows the identities of many other agents so if one person is captured and tortured by the enemy he can’t compromise the others.
The other type of entity I can think of that thrives on such secrecy is criminal organizations. Controlling the flow of information and contact between “employees” means if someone gets arrested, he can’t give away crucial details about “business” deals or point the finger at many of his fellow criminals.
I can’t say I buy Wells Fargo as a front for an international spy operation or imagine CEO John Stumpf running agents, setting up information drops or donning disguises to infiltrate terrorist cells.
I have to say it’s much easier for me to imagine Wells and the other big corporations financial services industry as elements of a global crime syndicate.
How about you. Do you see John Stumpf as a cloak-and-dagger spymaster? Or the godfather of his corporate “family?”